Am I cut out for motherhood? I sigh to myself in exasperation. This day began with minor accomplishments on the horizon - tasks I hadn't paid attention to in months and yet was able to achieve today. I was feeling "high on the hog," so to speak, most especially with a renewed sense of confidence, satisfied with the completion of a few projects.
Then it happened. As quickly as I could blink my eye, our toddler was scooting on the kitchen floor - which is carpeted, I might add - spreading a smooth layer of fresh poop that was leaking out of the side of her diaper (which are not cheap, generic ones). I scooped her up and swept her away to clean her up and change her, only to have my preschooler yell from the kitchen, "Mommy! Lily is eating Sarah's poop!"
Lily is our dog. I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Well, I'm cleaning Sarah up and forgot to put her in her cage. I'll clean up the mess in the kitchen after I get Sarah changed."
Then Felicity waltzed into the bedroom as I was wiping up Sarah, and she had fresh marker streaks all over her legs. She grasped three of them - all non-washable ink - proudly in her hand. "Mama, I have marker on my leg," she stated with satisfaction.
"Was it an accident or on purpose?" I asked. Her beaming countenance rapidly changed into a deep frown, brows furrowing and all. "An accident," she replied almost inaudibly.
I sighed again. How could this happen? I thought to myself. The day seemed so promising. Everything was falling into place flawlessly, and then this happens.
"This" is, quite simply, the life of a mother, isn't it? I amuse myself with these imaginings and yet am distracted and increasingly frustrated at how a day can transition from peace, calm and expectation to chaos in a matter of moments. Why do these messes have to happen at the same time? Why not give me a chance to catch up to them?
Well, that is when I question whether or not I am cut out for motherhood. I am a control freak. I am a perfectionist. I don't like change, especially surprises and spontaneity. I am a regimented, structured gal - and proud of it. To some degree, these character traits have served me well in life, as I have been able to successfully multitask from a young age through college and graduate school and, now, juggling Sarah's myriad doctors, therapies, and insurance or government forms.
But today I question my temperament as Felicity asks me plainly, "Why do you have to be so mean?"
I hadn't noticed my tone with her as I was entering the kitchen to find our dog lapping up the last remnants from the floor. Great. Now Lily will probably get sick. I was thinking of the potential disaster awaiting me at some ungodly hour of the night, all while Felicity was hanging on my leg and whining.
"Mooooooooooom-eeee! Help me get the marker off! Puh-leaaaaaaaase!"
Did I mention I cannot stand whining?
So I snapped, "Felicity, I am trying to clean up the mess on the floor and get your sister taken care of." I was holding a messy onesie in one hand and some carpet cleaner and towels in the other.
That's when she asked me why I was so mean. Felicity has never asked me this before, but I took it to heart. As soon as the dirty garments were safely in the hamper, I stooped down to her and said softly, gingerly, "I'm sorry, sweetie. Mommy is frustrated right now, but we'll get you cleaned up."
It's moments like these when I question my ability to be the mom I had always dreamed I would be - soft-spoken, gentle, kind, and patient. But if I am honest with myself, my temper gets the best of me most days, and, yes, I do take out my short fuse on my girls sometimes.
I see other moms smiling at the parks, and I overhear them talking at the grocery stores. They exchange stories and advice, and my heart often sinks. I feel so often that I fall short - that I am incapable of managing the life I have been given, that I am desperately lacking in the vocation of motherhood.
Every day I wonder why it's such a struggle for me to just let go, to accept my shortcomings and possibly even to embrace them.
When I have the courage to share my interior struggles with other moms, I often discover that they, too, question their ability to properly mold and shape their own little sweeties. It seems apparent that we all grasp for straws at times, not always knowing the best response to our children's behavior. We can find a sense of camaraderie in our frustration.
The truth is, no one and everyone is cut out for motherhood. Or, more generally speaking, parenthood. No one is cut out for motherhood, because parenting doesn't come with a one-size-fits-all instruction manual. Irrespective of how many amazing techniques are popularly shared on social media or in books, the truth is, no one has all the answers. We can try to squeeze our kids into a particular developmental model, but most likely they will fall short in at least one category. And that's okay.
Everyone is cut out for parenthood, because, quite frankly, we're all in this together! We're all learning as we go, as each new experience and developmental transition occurs, we find ourselves making decisions as if it were our first day with a newborn baby.
This is simply life. Somehow, some way we all must learn to vibrantly envelop our lives as mothers and fathers. None of us is perfect, and yet we are all perfectly chosen for the children we were given (and vice versa).
Sometimes I need to take my own advice. (Easier said than done, however.)
Am I cut out for motherhood? My conclusion? By the grace of God, yes I am.
Copyright 2014, Jeannie Ewing
About the Author
Jeannie Ewing believes the world ignores and rejects the value of the Cross. She writes about the hidden value of suffering and even discovering joy in the midst of grief. As a disability advocate, Jeannie shares her heart as a mom of two girls with special needs in Navigating Deep Waters and is the author of From Grief to Grace , A Sea Without A Shore , and Waiting with Purpose. Jeannie is a frequent guest on Catholic radio and contributes to several online and print Catholic magazines. She, her husband, and three daughters live in northern Indiana. For more information, please visit her website lovealonecreates.com.